Ultimate Budget Travel // B U L G A R I A

Bulgaria was the best spontaneous decision I have made so far in my trip. The Balkans are a lovely group of countries with incredible mountains, history and coastline. Bulgaria doesn’t use the euro, their currency is the Lev (BGN). It is consistently half the Euro, so €2 is equal to one Lev. So for me and my Australian dollar it was actually a really good country to pick money wise.

Where did I go?

I stayed in the capital city, Sofia. This was where my original flight was passing through so it seemed like a good idea. Also for a night I headed out to Varna; a small coastal town on the Black Sea.
Where did I stay?

Sofia – Hostel 123, the accommodation here was €30 for all five nights that I was in Sofia. A great brand new hostel. Everyone was very friendly and because it was still new and getting set up there wasn’t really a TV or any distractions like that so I ended up meeting some really cool people and having a really great time (more on that later).

Varna – Gagarin House, this accommodation was really basic but the staff were extremely accommodating, very helpful and the facilities were pretty good too. Only cost €9 for the night that I was there.
Where did I eat?

Sofia – breakfast was included and they did it later than most places so I was actually able to make it most of the time. Regardless, Hostel 123 had a kitchen which meant I could have oats and bread and sandwiches and that sort of thing. Because Sofia is so cheap, I checked out a few vegan places around the city. Loving Hut & Sun and Moon were my favourites. Sun and Moon had amazing massive portions for less than €6! Loving Hut had cheap smoothies which was refreshing considering it had been weeks since I’d had vegetables.

Varna – I was only there for one night so I had a whole lot of fruit bought from stores in Sofia on my way to the bus station and I took some vegan pesto that I had bought a few days earlier. I bought some pasta, canned veggies and beans and made an amazing home made dish with little effort, little price and little time.
What did I do?

A lot and nothing at the same time.

Sofia – it’s very much a walking city. Most of the sights are old buildings, cathedrals and parks so it’s very accessible and extremely affordable. All the cathedrals in Sofia are free to the public so you can always walk in and have a look around. A lot of my days were spent walking all around the city, enjoying the parks, and just taking in the atmosphere of the city. It’s not necessarily a city with a lot of sights and if you wanted to you could do everything in just a couple of days but I had 4 days in Sofia and I just wanted to enjoy my time and really take in the feel of the city rather than just the look.

Varna – very similar to Sofia except I only really had one night and one half day to walk around here. There are a few things to see, I paid around 5 Lev (€2-3) to go into the Roman Thermae and check out the ruins there. There’s a lot of museums and of course the Black Sea. Also, like Sofia there’s a major cathedral which is one of the main attractions and it’s free to enter as well. Varna is a very walkable city and it has a lot to offer. I wish I had’ve stayed longer to be honest because I saw the main attractions but I didn’t really get to experience a lot of aspects about the city. It was a very rushed trip as well. Another city on the Black Sea coastline in Bulgaria is Burgas.
The numbers.

I know I said that Greece was pretty affordable, but comparatively, Bulgaria was amazingly affordable! Pretty much half price for everything. I was spending less than 15 Lev on food easily (roughly €8) per day and like I said, accommodation is super cheap as well. It’s an amazing country that is very underrated. I would recommend asking the place you’re staying at to help you book bus tickets and things because most of the websites are in Bulgarian and it’s usually cheaper to buy online if you want to make a trip around. My bus trips were about 20 Lev each way but it was definitely worth it, I’d just give yourself some more time to check out the area you’re going to.
I hope you’re more inspired to check out Bulgaria now and that you’re more informed about doing it on a tight budget! All in all, I could’ve spent weeks in this country. There are so many incredible mountain ranges and cities worth seeing and I’m looking forward to going back! Next guide coming will be for London, UK. So that will be interesting! In the meantime feel free to check out my YouTube channel where I’m posting daily videos of what I’m doing, what I’m eating, what I’m spending, and that kind of thing. Also the series on the countries I’ve been to will be coming out once I am able to catch up on editing everything! I’ll keep you in the loop but thanks for reading this far and I’ll have another post out shortly!
Jax Goes OUT.
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what is ‘ultimate’ budget travel? tips and tricks

So I’m feeling like after one month, I know a few tips and tricks to travelling on a super tight budget while still enjoying the places you’re at.
A few disclaimers:

This is by no means a super comfortable lifestyle, nor is it sustainable long term or healthy or easy all the time.
So for most people budget travel through Europe means staying in a hostel or cheap hotels, buying meals that are around €10 and finding accommodation that is under €50 a night. For me, budget travel is couchsurfing to cut accommodation costs, or finding really cheap accommodation, no more than €15 a night, spending €10 or less a day on food and exploring by foot rather than even using public transport sometimes.
Accommodation:

Couchsurfing. Obviously hostels are great for meeting other Australians because we are everywhere and apparently all of us can only afford a 12-bed mix dorm. If you want to sleep in a real house with a kitchen a pretty much private bathroom and all of that good stuff then check out couchsurfing. I haven’t done it THAT much so far but when I did I had an amazing time, not an issue. Locals who are on it, really want to share their city, country and culture with you, so why not let them and the ripe old price of FREE. Of course you want to help them out with things and clean up after yourself because they are giving up their home for you. If you can’t find somewhere to couch surf, give booking.com a go. Agoda.com is also good; although I find it hard to get free cancellation hostels on there, the pricing is usually cheaper. Date flexibility will also help with cheaper pricing. If you’re in Europe during the summer, spend your weekends in cheaper places because it could be a Monday night and the clubs will still be going, the weekends will just cost you more for the same thing.
Food;

Now so far I’ve only really been in Greece and so I’ll have a blog post up about travelling cheap in Greece soon but just in general, the tricks are fairly easy. I drank a lot of juice, not the crap sugary stuff but natural juice, which in Greece is actually fairly cheap. Also if you love orange juice and you’re there in the summer that’s great. Also if you have a kitchen, rice and pasta are great. For the last month I have really gotten around bread as well. Bread is seriously under rated. Go to dinner with friends you make (because you’re travelling solo) and just get side dishes instead of mains, or even just eat the bread and then it only costs you €1 or sometimes 90 cents.
Activities:

Tourist attractions, sights, water sports and whatever else you can think of. I’m not saying don’t go to the Eiffel Tower or don’t get a quad bike for the day, but just think wisely. Maybe you can go to the Eiffel Tower and not go up it (trust me the view is very hazy anyway and it’s the same as any other view of any other city, why not walk up a hill instead). Maybe you can make a friend and share a quad bike so you can half the price (I did this and we needed up paying less than €15 euro for the whole day and that was everything we did – including petrol!). Do your research, weigh your options and before you impulsively jump into something, think about whether that activity will make your trip amazing or if you can live without it and still have a good day. From personal experience, most sights worth seeing are better from the outside for free anyway.
Extra tips:

If you do decide to do something, be wary of add on prices. Be wary of tourism traps and check out what the internet says first because the internet is always right, right? Avoiding high costing mishaps is also important, i.e. don’t lose your phone, don’t break your things, lock your bag (I need to tart taking your advice), get travel insurance. The more street smart you are, the less likely you are to be pick pocketed (especially in Europe). I have spoken to so many people who had their phones stolen, wallets stolen, or at least had attempts and they caught them. Just be aware of your things, zip your bags on the same side every time so you know if something’s up. Also plan in advance, but have fluidity. I’m really bad at this and sometimes it works out for me but planning ahead can save you a lot of money. Booking last minute accommodation and flights especially during the European summer gets expensive fast. Get out a calendar and sort yourself out early on if you can. That being said, getting flexible flights or free cancellation accommodation can save you if you meet some cool people or don’t like a place as much as you thought you would. Keep that in mind, I know it’s a juxtaposition.
Basically what travelling super cheap comes down to is doing research, staying smart, being friendly to everyone (you never know who has something you might need one day) and not being impulsive. It is hard in the beginning but eventually you’ll pick it up.

I’ll be writing and posting a Greece ultimate budget travel guide in the next week or so while I am in Bulgaria (very exciting!) and I’ll give you tips on cheap islands, cheap food, cheap accommodation, and all sorts of things.
Jax Goes OUT.
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what’s in my backpack as a solo traveller?

So I know I did a video of this on my YouTube channel but I thought I’d write it out for those who prefer to read or who can’t figure out YouTube (hey mum and dad). This will probably get lengthy but anyway, here’s a full comprehensive list of what I packed for my trip (with commentary included). Anyone wanting to watch the video version of everything I packed you can see it here: https://youtube.com/watch?v=oPoYTZaNzaE
Starting with my bag, before I came I decided I would spend money on a good bag but luckily, my bag was actually on sale! It is the Kathmandu 38L Litehaul in blue and orange. It usually goes for around $270 and I got it at the discounted price of $144.

I also have a Columbia 13L bag that is orange and grey which folds into its front pocket although I pretty much never have it folded up because it is my everyday pack. Even if I’m flying I usually have it on my front because it’s easier to get to things like my camera, my money and my passport. It cost me $25 on sale but actually it was free because I bought it on a gift card.

I have 2 packing cubes in different colours. I got these on sale at Kathmandu and got 3 for $30 (I lost one the day before I took this). These hold all my clothes, underwear, socks and bikinis.

I decided to bring with me only two pairs of shoes; I have Nike runners that I’ve had for probably about 5 years now. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bring them but I figured I could wear them into the ground and if they got lost I wouldn’t mind. They’re also super flexible and pack down pretty small for shoes. As well as my Nikes, I brought my thongs which I wear every day. In Europe (so far) I have been able to wear these shoes every day in every situation except if I’m going on a hike or on a run or something. They’re already starting to get quite thin but I have had them for over a year now so that’s not too bad.

One of my last minute purchases was a blue 4L Sea to Summit bag that I put my camera in to keep it safe, dry and cosy (can confirm this is waterproof and has already saved my camera).
Clothing:

I have very minimal clothing with me. I would have brought more but my electronics just take up too much space.

Tops; I have 10 tops. Two nice shirts for going out which I haven’t worn at all, three singlets that I wear pretty much everyday, two graphic singlets that I got for free at a few bars from shot challenges around the Greek islands, one grey striped tshirt if I need it, one pj/travel tshirt and one jumper for planes and all the well air conditioned places.

Bottoms; I have 5 bottoms at the moment. One pair of workout shorts, one pair of leggings, one pair of Aladdin pants for travel and if I get cold, one pair of pj shorts that I also have ended up wearing to the beach and stuff and one pair of everyday cotton shorts.

Others; I also have one blue dress which I got for free in Mykonos, and one floral jumpsuit which I picked up in Paros. Other than that I have like 3 pairs of underwear (because the underwear packing cube fell out of my bag), 2 different bikinis, 3 pairs of socks (one for the plane), one sports bra and one normal bra.
Electronics:

I have an electronics bag which holds all my cords, chargers, adapters, hard drives, SD cards, USB’s and anything else. I also have my beats headphones for when my computer starts working again, my MacBook Pro which at the moment is three and a half kilos of dead weight because it broke my first day in Athens, my Canon EOS 700D, my Bluetooth speaker, my portable charger for my phone, my kindle and my GoPro.
Toilettries, makeup and first aid:

All of these things fit into two containers, a pink and white polka dot bag and a plain black waterproof bag (very practical).

Makeup; very basic, I have with me, travel mascara, travel lipstick, sample sized perfume, one brush, highlighted, bronzer and brows.

First aid; bandaids, antibiotics from when I got tonsillitis, tea tree oil, strapping tape, asthma puffer

Toilettries; nail clippers, tweezers, toothpaste, toothbrush, diva cup, hair brush, iron tablets and b12, Dr Bronner’s natural soap, hand mirror, small moisturiser, lush shampoo bar and sunscreen.
Miscellaneous:

Sarong, microfibres towel (from Kathmandu for around $60, definitely worth it), journal, deck of cards, pen, sharpie, mini notepad, polaroids from home, spoon, scrunchie, liteweight compact rain jacket from Mountain Designs, important documents and postcards I need to send, glasses, glasses case, computer charger, wallet, Greek tourist wallet clutch thing, bananas, fold out tote bag for shopping (saving plastic woohoo), face mask if someone needs CPR (you never know), a business card holder with my back up travel card in it and my paw paw.
That is everything I have with my right now and plan to carry with me for the next little while. I’m surprised it hasn’t changed much since I left considered I’m already one month in but I’ll make sure to do an update later on and we’ll see what made the cut.
If you’re interested in following my journey a bit more check out my socials down below:

Instagram – @jaxgoes

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the revamp is here

I now have a Facebook page! Linked to my Instagram, linked to a new twitter, linked to my blog, linked to my snapchat!

I’m going all in, going to try and really put everything into budget travel and let people know about it.

So I will be working on some more ‘dodgy guides’ but in a budget travel type edition. I am passionate about travel and I have no money so that sort of makes sense to go for that kind of thing.

In the meantime, see all my socials below and I will start getting these updates ready to go.
Let’s get social:

Instagram – @jaxgoes

Blog – http://www.jaxgoes.wordpress.com

YouTube – Jax Goes

Snapchat – @jaxperrin

Twitter – @jaxgoess

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Email – jaxgoesbusiness@gmail.com

Athens ~ a dodgy guide

3 days in Athens. That’s what I gave myself before heading out to the islands. I have another four days there once I get back from the island tour.
Day one ~ rock up exhausted after an overnight flight and I catch the metro train into the city (don’t get a taxi, the metro goes every half hour and only costs €10 and a taxi will set you back at least €50 and it’s not any quicker). Syntagma is the central stop and I was staying closest to Omonoia station. Trip took me about 45 minutes and was kind of scenic in parts.

Got to my hostel and it was only around 11am so my room wasn’t ready. I stayed at Sparta Team Hotel. It was a nice enough hostel for the price but the area I wouldn’t recommend for single female travellers as I felt a bit uncomfortable, especially at night.

So I headed down the street to find myself some food and just wander around Athens for a few hours. Walked into Monastraki Square (really nice area for food and just hanging out in general) and I walked all the way through the flea market and literally walked into the ruins where the Acropolis was. I bought the €15 ticket (€30 if you don’t have a student card) and that gave me 5 days for pretty much the main things in Athens. I headed through the ruins in the summer heat and headed up the dreaded and steep Acropolis hill. There’s a look out point just before which is great but be careful, the rocks are very slippery. Almost broke my camera more than once.

Once in the Acropolis there’s also the Parthenon and the South Slope (I think) to see. You honestly don’t need hours there, it is really just the buildings, some photos, soak in the view and then move on. Especially in the heat. Then I headed back down the hill and over to the Temple of Apolllo which is still in the same big area just down the hill a bit. After that I headed back to the hostel and just rested for a bit getting ready for dinner. I went to a little restaurant called Nonna’s which was not bad, pretty cheap and easy for a first day. I ended up falling asleep pretty early because of the jet lag so didn’t do anything that night.
Day two ~ I woke up and walked around through to a few other key areas. Went to look at the Parliament Buti. zildxinzgs and check out other main squares. Then I made my way over to Zeus’ temple g check out the jother side of the Acropolis. Zeus’ temple was included in the ticket I had bought the day before. I also headed into the Panatheanic Stadium (the one that basically started the Modern Olympic Games). It’s only €2.50 to get in on a student card (again €5 for full fare). In there you can get a free audio tour which I would definitely recommend. Try not to go there in the middle of the day like I did because there isn’t any shade whatsoever. Overall it was a good day, would recommend taking your time to really walk through this city. In the evening I hiked up Mount Lycabettus which is about 25 minutes from the bottom to the top. I got up there for sunset and it looks over all of Athens and you can see back across to the Acropolis and everything. Pretty amazing views up there, would definitely recommend a sunset walk up there just leave yourself enough time to get there before sunset!
Day three ~ I met someone in my dorm room and he had been studying tourism so now he was trying to travel through as much of Europe as he could before going into the industry. He told me about heading down to Cape Sunion. I got on the bus at 10am from Athens and headed all the way down to the southern tip of the main land of Greece. Here you’ll find a little mini harbour, a beach, some epic cliffs and possibly most importantly, the Temple of Poseidon. Poseidon was the God of Water so  they built his temple there so that it was the last thing people saw when they left the mainland. At least I think that was it. There’s also a restaurant there so because the buses only come every hour or so, you can get something to eat or drink (of course there is a bar too) and just take in the beautiful view. Everyone says this, but you have to be careful getting back because I think the last bus leaves for Athens areound 5pm (might be 7pm or something like that). There is a town down the hill you could explore but if not then you would only need about an hour or two to really take it all in. When I got back my Busabout tour was meeting up for happy hour drinks and then we went for dinner at the 360 rooftop bar in Athens, which as expected, gives beautiful views of Athens again.

Eventually I headed off to bed ready to head to Mykonos at 5.30am the next day. More on that to come.
Jax Goes OUT.

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The first 24 hours

To begin with, I am extremely tired right now so I’m hoping what I’m typing makes sense.

I did it.

I’m currently in Athens, Greece. Typing this from a nice little ‘alternative’ cafe with lots of colours and trinkets.

To make this quick, here’s an overview of what has happened so far:

– my bag got bird shit on it

– my computer broke

– my drink bottle broke

– I literally stumbled into the Ancient Ruins

– I witnessed a catwalk (followed by cheer votes) at 3.30am on my flight

– I made it all the way to my hostel without freaking out or getting lost

– I got extremely sunburnt

So… basically now I am sitting in “Nonna”, my back burning with my broken drink bottle, my bird poo bag and I’m waiting for a sand which so I can eat, go home and sleep… and it’s currently only 7.38pm. Kinda sad really, but I did just go for an aimless walk while I waited for my room to be ready. Didn’t even have a map open and I look up and see the infamous Acropolis above me with all the other ruins standing right before me. What are the chances? I mean I guess it is in the middle of the city and it’s a really big space but still, kind of cool that it was the first thing I really saw today.

On my way I also bought half a kilo of strawberries, you know why? Because it was 99 cents.. I don’t even like strawberries that much, they were just so cheap!

Athens is mayhem by the way. In contrast to Singapore, Athens is insane. Firstly the airport takes twice as long and they ask half as many questions, I brought in all sorts of food I didn’t eat on the plane and when I asked about it they laughed at me. People just drive wherever they want and if you want to cross the road you just sort of do and hope for the best, not that anyone slows down for you.

That all being said, Athens is beautiful – and I am very excited to go to bed early and have a really big day across the city tomorrow!

Jax Goes OUT.

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what’s my plan?

a question i have been asked countless times in the past few weeks. there’s something that is very unsettling to a lot of people about not having a plan and not knowing what i am doing.

even if i tell people where i’m aiming to go or what i know so far, once i get to the part where i have no idea, people ask me over and over again. what i know and what is planned is this; i will fly out of Singapore in a few days and start my travels. i will fly to Athens and spend a few days there, then i will catch a ferry to Mykonos where i will start my Greek Island tour sort of thing (not really a tour – basically just my transfers paid for etc.).

once i have finished all of the Greek Islands i will fly to London to see my friend who is there for an internship. i am planning to be there for about a week (none of this is booked yet) and then i will head down to Spain for a family friends wedding. this takes me to the very end of July where my plan ends. i will head to Germany and The Netherlands to visit a few friends and i would like to go to Portugal and eastern Europe (Romania, Hungary, the Balkan states, all that good stuff).

it is okay not to have a plan. i will be okay. if i am not, i will come home and start again. some of my friends think i’m just going to run out of money and end up coming home in a month. if that is the case, fine. do i regret going over? no. people keep trying to ask me ‘my plan’ in different ways to see if they can get an answer so they can understand my trip. they want to put it into a box but the truth is, i don’t have any answers, i don’t have a plan and i don’t have a box. ‘what if you run out of money?’ – is it not the same as if i ran out of money in Australia at home? i ask; why is money everything? sure money buys you things but we really don’t need as much as we think we do. i can couch surf, i can sleep on a beach, i can work for my accommodation. i am happy to do whatever i need to do to make the trip work. ‘when are you coming home?’ – well i don’t really have a home right now so it’s an invalid question to start with. also why do i have to be in such a rush to come back to Australia in the first place? i have been there for 20 years. i have no idea when i will ‘go home’ but if i can help it, it will be a while.

you can’t plan for travel even if you want to. things will inevitably go wrong and pre-booking and planning everything down to the final detail will only make things more stressful when it all unravels because a plane was delayed or a hotel missed your booking. by going with the flow as much as i can, i have ultimate freedom and LESS stress overall.

food for thought. where is your next trip? no idea? great, give it a go and see how that goes for you.

Jax Goes OUT.

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photo at Gardens By The Bay ~ SingaporeIMG_8607